Peter J. Hotez, Co-Editor-in-Chief of PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, and Larry Peiperl, Chief Editor of PLOS Medicine, on a new PLOS Collection that highlights a shift in current thinking about global health.
This week PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases and PLOS Medicine have joined forces to launch Blue Marble Health: the mismatch between national wealth and population health, the most recent PLOS Collection.
Two key PLOS papers, each published in the fall of 2013, stimulated the genesis of this Blue Marble Health Collection.
Major areas of poverty in the G20 nations and Nigeria, where most of the world’s NTDs occur.
The first, from PLOS NTDs - ”NTDs V.2.0: ‘Blue Marble Health’—Neglected Tropical Disease Control and Elimination in a Shifting Health Policy Landscape” – found that while some NTDs such as river blindness, loiasis, African sleeping sickness and schistosomiasis are largely or exclusively diseases of sub-Saharan Africa, paradoxically many of the world’s highest concentration of NTDs occur in the 20 wealthiest economies – the group of 20 (G20) countries – especially in the mostly hidden pockets of extreme poverty that can be found in the big middle-income nations, such as Indonesia or in areas of the BRICS countries, including northeastern Brazil, northern India, and southwestern China. Moreover, the disease burden from NTDs is alarmingly high in the southern United States, especially in Texas and the Gulf Coast, in areas of Australia with large Aboriginal populations such as the Northern Territories, and Eastern Europe.
A parallel editorial in PLOS Medicine - Poor Health in Rich Countries: A Role for Open Access Journals - noted that relative poverty within a society is a stronger predictor of health than aggregate measures of economic power such as GNP or per-capita income. For example, tens of millions of Americans living in poverty, including many people of color, “experience levels of health that are typical of middle-income or low-income countries.” The editorial concluded that, for many issues that affect the health of people of lower socioeconomic status, clear-cut distinctions between “domestic” and “cross-border” research are becoming increasingly difficult to draw.